Daily use of wholegrain foods is generally recommended due to strong epidemiological evidence of reduced risk of chronic diseases. Cereal grains, especially the bran part, have a high content of dietary fiber (DF). Cereal DF is an umbrella concept of heterogeneous polysaccharides of variable chemical composition and molecular weight, which are combined in a complex network in cereal cell walls. Cereal DF and its distinct components influence food digestion throughout the gastrointestinal tract and influence nutrient absorption and other physiological reactions. After repeated consumption of especially whole grain cereal foods, these effects manifest in well-demonstrated health benefits. As cereal DF is always consumed in the form of processed cereal food, it is important to know the effects of processing on DF to understand, safeguard and maximize these health effects. Endogenous and microbial enzymes, heat and mechanical energy during germination, fermentation, baking and extrusion destructurize the food and DF matrix and affect the quantity and properties of grain DF components: arabinoxylans (AX), beta-glucans, fructans and resistant starch (RS). De-polymerization is the most common change, leading to solubilization and loss of viscosity of DF polymers, which influences postprandial responses to food. Extensive hydrolysis may also remove oligosaccharides and change the colonic fermentability of DF. On the other hand, aggregation may also occur, leading to an increased amount of insoluble DF and the formation of RS. To understand the structure–function relationship of DF and to develop foods with targeted physiological benefits, it is important to invest in thorough characterization of DF present in processed cereal foods. Such understanding also demands collaborative work between food and nutritional sciences.
- Dietary fiber arabinoxylans
- Resistant starch